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Watermark CEO and White Box owner, Roberto Ugolini

Restaurant Owner Fights Demolition Order

Thursday, July 31, 2014
PHUKET: The owner of a popular Phuket beachfront restaurant believes authorities should delay a seven-day demolition deadline or be seen to be discriminating against him and other foreign investors.

Italian Roberto Ugolini, owner of the White Box at Kalim and CEO of the Watermark group, says the Army and local authorities have no right to order demolition of the upper storeys of his property within a week when other restaurants and beach clubs have been given up to 60 days.

''Why must foreigners be the losers?'' he said yesterday. ''It's not fair to pursue me when others are being given time to prove whether demolition is fair or not.''

Mr Ugolini named the Lotus restaurant at Laypang (Northern Bang Tao) and the Zazada Beach Club at Surin as two Thai-owned businesses that were being given more leeway than the White Box.

Mr Ugolini says that when authorities appeared at the White Box earlier this week, agreement to reduce the restaurant to the ground floor, as specified by the land title, was signed by a person named ''Andy.''

While the authorities said that ''Andy'' was a restaurant manager, Mr Ugolini told Phuketwan that ''Andy'' was a friend of a White Box chef who was helping to remove items because the restaurant was closing temporarily.

When Phuketwan telephoned ''Andy'' today to confirm his role, he would only add: ''I am not saying anything.''

Mr Ugolini, who turned 59 yesterday, has emailed many documents to Phuketwan that he says prove the legitimacy of the White Box land title and his right to operate an upstairs restaurant and entertainment venue there.

After two years of operation under an MoU, just two months ago he purchased the White Box for 70 million baht from two Englishmen, who established the business in 2006.

It appears no serious challenge has been made to the legitimacy of the structure in the intervening years, until after the May 22 military takeover in Thailand.

Phuket authorities accept that Mr Ugolini's land title is genuine and that he is entitled to operate a restaurant on the ground floor.

However, they now want the other two levels demolished within seven days. It's certainly true that other restaurants and beach clubs have been given more time.

Mr Ugolini, who has his headquarters in Bangkok, has been expanding the Watermark restaurants business, which employs hundreds of Thais, to other parts of the country.

Most new openings use the name Limoncello, a restaurant that has already proven to be popular at the Royal Phuket Marina.

Mr Ugolini regards himself as a law-abiding investor.

Among the items emailed yesterday to Phuketwan were certificates of gratitude from two Phuket governors for Mr Ugolini's efforts in providing nights out at the White Box for dignitaries.

He also emailed a photograph of a former Phuket police commander, enjoying a celebration at the Babylon Beach Club at Bang Tao, one of the group's restaurants. The Babylon Beach Club was demolished earlier this month.

Another controversial addition at the White Box was a cantilevered balcony, extending over the Kalim sand and covering the unsightly exit of a canal.

Mr Ugolini told Phuketwan he had the approval of the previous mayor of Patong, Pian Keesin, to spend 500,000 baht on a balcony walkway covering the canal.

A printed sign was evident this week, stuck to a fence, saying that the balcony was public space, and adding that it was especially good for viewing sunsets.

The Director of the Kathu District, Saiyan Chanachainwong, said today that the controversial balcony across the canal had been taken away yesterday.

Authorities have also asked for a large ''White Box'' sign to be removed from public shorefront space, along from the restaurant.

One of the officials who called at the White Box on Tuesday, when ''Andy'' allegedly agreed in the absence of Mr Ugolini to the proposal of authorities for a speedy demolition, was Royal Thai Navy Vice Admiral Petcharat Tienjan.

He said today: ''We've been targetting illegal properties across Phuket, and they are both Thai and foreign-owned.

''Let Roberto ask himself, did he break the rules or not? If he says we are targetting foreigners, that is a bad excuse.''

Mr Ugolini was planning to have his lawyer visit a Phuket police station today to lodge an objection to the two-storey demolition request.

Large numbers of shorefront restaurants have been demolished along Phuket's west coast in the past few weeks as the military bans commercial activities in public spaces across Thailand.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Yet the 'Kamala 10' remain firmly ensconded on the beach. it does seem that mr Ugolini is not getting equal treatment but bearing in mind another illegal business of his has been knocked down maybe he has been pushing his luck for a while. I bet the guys who sold White Box to him are nowhere to be seen.

Posted by Mister Ree on July 31, 2014 14:01

Editor Comment:

Make that the Kamala Seven. Different kind of land title, hence the difference in approach. The White Box title is legit, but not for three storeys.


Are any of these laws going to be used on other places like, Phi Phi island, where most hotels/restaurants are in breach of the law. All within XX metres of the beach, but I doubt anything will happen there.
I hope the White Box Man sticks to his guns.

Posted by Tbs on July 31, 2014 19:51


I know that that strip of houses have been there a long time ( almost 20 years) but "How Come" they were allowed to be erected in the first place....the rule for many years is that all buildings must be 20 metres from the high tide legit is the land title

Posted by How Come on July 31, 2014 20:07


I have been around long enough to remember when the 'White Box' was a private house available for rent, along with the properties just a bit further north. At that time, those properties were the few true beach side, sea view accommodations available on the west coast.
After the wrath of mother nature in 2004 the 'entrepreneurs' of real estate stepped in and the rest is history

Posted by Stuart on August 1, 2014 20:04


Its a farang thing !

Posted by Harry on August 4, 2014 11:23

Thursday December 9, 2021
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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